“The era of the car-centric city is over”: How is Paris encouraging walking and cycling?


From mass picnics to car-free days and new bike lanes, Paris is rapidly moving forward with its sustainable transport initiatives.

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It's a beautiful day for that. The sun is reflecting off the white squares of picnic cloth that stretch from the Arc de Triomphe to the Avenue George V. The traffic lights haven't yet turned from red to green, but no one is passing through.

Elodie and her partner were among the 4,000 lucky people who purchased free tickets. Big picnic on the Champs-Élysées The event took place on May 26th, and participants enjoyed the novelty of relaxing on routes they would normally cycle to work, while avoiding cars and selfie-obsessed tourists.

“We are Parisians, and this is where we've been kicked out,” says the 51-year-old author. “This is not a museum, this is not 'Emily in Paris' or Disneyland.”

It's an understandable sentiment, but the scene is reminiscent of a French theater performance: the head chef poses proudly in his all-white garb before thousands of diners take their seats. Champs-Élysées The committee told reporters that picnics are an important form of public entertainment.

Among them is Anne Hidalgo. ParisThe London mayor, a known environmental activist, smiles and shakes hands with food truck chefs for the private event, which wasn't organised by his city council but which fits with the mayor's vision for tackling pollution and reimagining roads for pedestrians and cyclists.

The Arc de Triomf has been the scene of various events over the years, including Hidalgo's annual car-free day, which began in 2015. Olympic This summer the council is hoping to showcase its commitment to environmental protection in the best possible light.

“We see this as a way to show the world our vision for a new way to host the Olympics and our vision for living in cities by 2040. [under] “The city is changing more and more due to the effects of climate change,” a city hall spokesperson told Euronews Green. Here's what's changing in the City of Light.

5. Parisians ride bicycles

As you enter Paris from Gare du Nord, you'll see a series of green bike lanes lined up alongside the traffic. Amsterdam.

Paris currently has more than 1,300 kilometers of bike lanes, of which 500 kilometers were installed between 2014 and 2020. In preparation for the Olympics, 30 kilometers of new lanes were added in the city center and suburbs.

This will require coordinated consideration by city hall, which only manages central Paris, and suburban mayors, and in some cases literally ensuring that bike lanes continue on the same side of the road.

Communication is key, says a spokesman for Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Grégoire's team. “The best way to explain to people is to show them that we're not making life harder,” he says. Driving a car in Paris requires a lot of patience; by contrast, cycling is faster and safer because the new lanes mean you don't get lost in a “sea of ​​cars.”

“We must also take the time to help children learn to ride bikes in schools and explain to people that the days of the car society are over,” he added.

The message seems to be getting through. Parisians increasingly use bicycles A recent study by the Paris Regional Institute, an urban planning agency, found that driving into the suburbs generates more traffic than driving through the city center.

4. Pedestrian streets and squares

There are still some early challenges to overcome before Paris becomes a fully bikeable city, but with its tightly-knit boroughs, it has always been highly walkable.

Pedestrians have been given more space in recent years: city hall banned traffic from the left and right banks of the Seine in 2013 and 2016, respectively.

Place de la Nation, once an eight-lane roundabout, is now primarily a “garden” where children can play and learn to ride a bike at a safe distance from the road, while Place de la Bastille, a key site for rallies and protests, has been repurposed for the people.

Rue de Rivoli, the boulevard that runs from Paris' Hotel de Ville to the Tuileries Gardens, is currently only open to emergency vehicles.

Parisians will also be able to enjoy more extensive car freedom on certain days. A day without a car Under the Paris-Respia plan, parts of the capital will be closed to traffic one Sunday a month each year.

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3. Say goodbye to SUVs

Perhaps unnoticeable to ordinary pedestrians, Paris is cracking down hard on its most polluting vehicles.

The people of Paris voted Three times the parking fee For SUV drivers from out of town in February.

“It's time to break the trend of ever-bigger, ever-taller, ever-wider cars,” Hidalgo said before the referendum. “You have the power to take back ownership of our roads.”

2. Urban forestation

Another roundabout that is undergoing a more environmentally friendly renovation is Plaça Catalunya, near Montparnasse station.

The mayor said this was the firstUrban Forest' is inspired by Parisian parks and has been transformed from a homogenous concrete area into an area with 478 trees and large lawns where people can sit, eat and play.

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Paris' shingle masonry is a big part of the city's charm, but with too much stone and concrete around, the city council is trying to soften the streets with more vegetation and provide shade.

The city plans to invest in creating more than 400,000 square metres of new green space by 2026, a spokesman said.

There has been particularly significant activity around school streets, many of which have been converted into pedestrianised streets to adapt to rising temperatures brought about by climate change.

1. Towards a 15-minute city

of A city within 15 minutes The model is an urban planning concept that Governor Hidalgo adopted several years ago, in which people live within walking or biking distance of everything they need.

Paris is already a very walkable city, so in places this may seem a bit pointless, but great strides have been made to more fully realize that vision.

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A spokesman said new urban planning rules meant building owners were required to ensure there was a mix of shops as well as homes and offices on the ground floor.

Paris' approach to the Olympics will also emphasize proximity: for the first time, the Games will be held mainly in the city center, with 26 fan zones set up across the district so locals won't have to travel far to watch with friends and family.

“This is a way of putting on the Games for everyone and showing that in a time of climate change, we can continue to host the Games in our city in a different way,” the spokesperson said. “It's also more environmentally friendly, with people being able to walk to the competition venues. public transport And by bicycle too.”

During the Olympics, many more areas will be pedestrianised, mainly for safety reasons: one lane of the Peripheric ring road surrounding the city will be designated exclusively for Olympic vehicles.

But the city council wants to turn it into a car-sharing only service after the Olympics – an example of how the Games will be used to “accelerate the transformation of Paris”, as a spokesman put it.

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